Create The Vision You Want. Begin Living Your
“The Perfect Day ”
“The Perfect Day”
GET THE Ebook and STEP BY STEP GUIDE
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret US Army ) Kevin Petit Phd
He is a partenr at Performance Systems a SDVO Small Business servicing the SOCOM and Intelligence Community. Kevin is also a Board Member of Jump For Valor a charitable organization that strives to offer military veterans, including combat, retired and disabled veterans, access to a community that brings them joy, a sense of freedom, and something they can participate in and enjoy with friends and family.
Topics Discussed Include :
Learn from the #Mindset, #Motivations & #Habits of Executive #Leaders in #Technology | #Government | #Military. Their experience helps us align with our #purpose , continue to #grow and achieve our #goals.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: All right, welcome back. Today we are speaking withKevin. Pettit. He goes by KP. He’s a partner over at Performance Systems basedright here in Northern Virginia. How are you doing Kevin?
Kevin Petit: I’mdoing great. Thanks for having me.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: Thanks for agreeing to do this. You, know, I’vegotten to know each other personally and professionally over the last couple ofyears, and I, I wanted to reach out to you and I know that you’ve been you guyshave been working hard.
You also have a lot of, a lot extracurricular activities thatthat just helped you. At least you’ve helped me work in the opposite of fear.And I can only imagine that that does a lot for you during the day. So Petit: Iappreciate you taking some time to, chat with us today.
Kevin Petit:Absolutely. This is great.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: So, performance systems what kind of group of youguys?
Kevin Petit: We are aservice-disabled veteran owned small business. And we do. We specialize inprofessional services for the government client. And then I like to say we do,you know, project management and program management in the Ts space or in the top-secretspace. That’s really our top-secret sweet spot. So, we support federal clientsand usually us SOCOM or the special operations community, also the intelligencecommunity,
Phillip K. Naithram:Okay.
Kevin Petit: Doing,you know, mostly cleared work. And so, it’s good. So, it’s so, consulting, butyou know, but some of it’s, you know, kind of long-term consulting, its projectmanagement, but some of its longer, longer projects, you know, year to yearprojects and whatnot.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: How long have you been around?
Kevin Petit: Weactually stood up in in 2012 and then really 2014 was its a great year for us.You know, we got on a Petit: good vehicle and. You know, got in with thegovernment, right. Where we want her to be. So, we’ve been, we’ve been doingwell since that,
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: there’s three main partners of the, of the group andyou specialize in operations, you’d say,
Kevin Petit: We So,go by the partner system because we want it to be flattened fast. You know, asa matter of fact, we’re I think we’re ahead of the curve. You know, the, the wewe’ve been a virtual company for eight years now, or we’ve been in virtualcompany for eight years, so we don’t have a building.
In fact, I will say, you know, we’re going to buy a corporatejet before we buy a building because buildings cost money. But that, you know,that said, if, you know, when you get a government contract, most of thosefolks are onsite at the government place. So that’s a, that’s kinda kind ofwhat we do.
I’m the ops guy. If we had this structure, I would be the COO,we have a CFO, and then we have a really a finance guy.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: And do you, do You know, how many how many folks doyou employ at least on the government sites.
Kevin Petit: We havewe have 14 folks that are on and we’re, you know, I’d say. We’re not we’re notwinning any small business awards today, but you know you know, we love ourfolks in
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: So, you’ve got 14 people and that gives you anopportunity to connect personally with those 14 people in a very different way.Right.
Kevin Petit: Oh,that’s, that’s where the juice is for me, you know, I’m you know I’m acapitally extrovert, maybe only slightly smaller than you because I know you tobe that too, but you know, I get my juice from people, right. I, I Petit: likedthat interaction and, and, and what I know we’ve got great folks, you know,most of our folks are former Intel professionals or. former Special operatorswho have turned around and, and are now contracting back to the governmentthrough us. Right. And that’s, that’s the business we’re in. So, the, so thepeople that are great and Petit: the mission’s
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: So, and do you, I don’t want to use the word only,but you hire a lot of former militaries.
Kevin Petit: We do,you know, we compete very, very well in SDV USB or the service disabled. And sothat, you know, when the government buys that service, they have an expectationthat, you’re going to know this business because, because you are serviceconnected.
We also have, you know, we do mostly clear work, classifiedwork, so, and that’s a great, you know, most folks get their clearance from thegovernment, some and then they, they come on in a different capacity.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: Mean, so, and you started mean this company started,you said 2012, and That was right when you got out of the military. What aboutyour partners? Were they already out, or, or how did that or how did you guyseven meet each other?
Kevin Petit: youknow, we’re my clear there’s two operating partners, me and Jason, Jason and Iare co we were classmates at west point. And so, we knew each other back there.And you know, we both went to the infantry and it, 10 years in the infantry, hesaid, you know, hey, I think I’m going to. Change and go functional area. Ithink I’m going to leave the infantry and go functional area acquisition andlearn this acquisition buying game, you know, and I looked at him and I’m like,you know, the good luck over there, you know, with all the pocket protectorguys and all that.
Well, as it turns out, he’s a genius. You know, he was on thebuying side of the government. He understands the acquisition process. Youunderstand how proposals work and, and the federal acquisition regulations toFAR. And, and, he understands how money moves through this town. And he’s agenius and I’m just a guy, you know?
So, in the end, you know, that’s, that’s how we, we made agreat partnership because, you know, I have connections to the community thatwhere we get work and, and I’m the, you know, the bright smiling face and he’s,and he’s the numbers and contracts and, and, you know, he’s the detail guy
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: so, you’re in the army,
Kevin Petit: I was aranger. I was an army ranger in the in the ranger regiment and in the airborneinfantry for 24 great years.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: How’d you come by the army, did you know you wantedto do that? Military family.
Kevin Petit: Youknow, I had a military family and my dad was a Marine. And then, you know, whenyou’re 18 years old, He was, had been wrong about everything else, you know? So,when he, so he said, don’t, you should go to the Marines, but don’t go to theinfantry. So, I wasn’t going to, I wasn’t going to listen to either one ofthose things, because for some reason I was smarter, you know, at 18 than him.
But so, there’s an interesting, you know, I was I was awrestler and I was captain of the wrestling team in my high school. And therewas a culture in that team that the captain of the wrestling team went to aservice academy. It had happened about six or seven years consecutively. And so,when I became captain, it was just a natural thing for me to, you know, tostart to apply and, and all that.
So it was, it was great. Those guys would come home during thewinters and Russell Wister and the winters and they were our heroes. And so that’sso, kinda how I got to.
Phillip K. Naithram:He grew up around here.
Kevin Petit: I grewup in Southern California in Southern California and you know, my good friendwas, had gone to the air force academy and I thought I was going to go to theair force academy. And his dad who was an FBI agent, you know, kind of sat measide and said, hey, you know, the if you look at the, so I had, I had appliedto the service academies west point and air force. And he said, you know, whenyou look at the at the, at the plane at the Toronto, you see monuments of theair force academy, you see monuments to machines and you look in west point,you see monuments to men.
Would you rather lead machines or would you rather lead men andmen when you’re 18 years old? That was compelling. Right? So that was, that wasabout my big leap that I, I hey changed my course from the air force academy tothe, to west point and went that direction.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: And I mean, I’d say it happened, right? I mean,you’re a leader of people now, for sure. You know, definitely an influentialguy when I when I see out in the community and with other people that we,happen to know together. But you know, there’s an interesting story about youin the army where you had two separate paths, right. Where you had to choosefrom, and hey I really want to get you to tell us about that and how you madethat decision. What it was,
Kevin Petit: Youknow, it’s interesting. I was a captain and that’s kind of the, about your 10thyear in service and Petraeus you know general Petraeus who at that time wasColonel Petraeus was our, was my commander. And he was calling us in and hewanted to know what you were going to do because your afterlife aftercommanding a company, you know, that was important.
So, you know, I, we basically, I had two paths. I could go theacademic route and so, go to advanced civil schooling, go get a master’ssomewhere. And, and then and then probably maybe teach back at the academy. Orbecome a planner or I could stay tactical and so stay in the tactical world.
And it was a very, very tough decision for me. You know, I, I,
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: tell you at this point
Kevin Petit: I wasjust 27, 28.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: It’s a big decision, right. Because that kind ofdictates what the rest of your, your time in the military is likely to look
based on that decision there, did you have mentors? Did youhave other people, like, does the military work that way?
Where like, do they give you time to make those decisions? Andthen you could, you could ask other people for their advice. I mean,
Kevin Petit: We suredid. I mean, we, you know, we got, I think the mentorship program in theservice is phenomenal. So, so you know, but these, some of these decisions arevery personal. And so anyway, I, I, you know, cast my lot and it’s funnybecause me.
You know, general portray said, hey, what are you, what are youbad at? And you know, what didn’t you do well? And I said, well, you know,actually I failed math in the academy a couple of times before I finally got itright. And he said, you should, you should go back to school, get a graduatedegree at math and go teach math.
That would show the army that you, that you hey know, shored upyour weakness. And I thought to myself, I am not doing that.
So, I told my buddy that, and the next day he went in for thatinterview and the and the, and the Colonel said, you know, what are you bad at?He’s like, I’m bad at ranger operations, you know, trying to, you know, so hewanted to get what he wanted. So, he went the other direction, which is funny.But so, he was good. I mean, as we talked about, right. I, I love my career. Ilove my decision and that was great for me. And then in retirement, I got, youknow, I got to go back the other way and go back to academia and kind of dothat thing.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: So, you so retired after how many years in 2012,
Kevin Petit: 24.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: after 24 years in 2012. You retired and then sotaking the advice from your general, you then went back to school, what was thefirst step to that?
Kevin Petit: Youknow, I, I went back to grad school and you know, it was funny because youknow, it was just the oldest guy walking around campus.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: Where’d you go
Kevin Petit: I wentto George Washington university downtown in DC. And so, I, I jumped in a PhDprogram in international relations.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: How old are you at this point?
Kevin Petit: Man, I’mgot 40 something, 45 maybe. And so, all those young kids, you know, they pickup stuff so quick and I, and I was the slow learner. Right. I, you know, what Ilearned as is there was no more late nights for me. I can’t burn the candle intothe night anymore because I guess I’m just too old. So, my, my jam was to wakeup at three in the morning and then do all my work, you know, and then that daywould start. That was a better jam for me which is different than when, youknow, we were young and rock and roll on this. But anyway, I had a great youknow, it took me about eight years to, to rock it. I had, you know, but I wrotea full dissertation and, and finished the PhD recently with just a bunch ofgreat mentors and leaders in the acronym.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: So, you’re now Dr. Kevin Pettit.
Kevin Petit: That’swhat they say. That’s what it says on the, on the paper. So, I’m happy aboutthat.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: And you’re also.
Kevin Petit: I’m alsoa retired Lieutenant Colonel,
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: So, so what’s that, what’s that LinkedIn page goingto look like? Is going to say doctor, Lieutenant Colonel RET retired. Kevin Pewitcomma PhD.
Kevin Petit: That,you know, I hadn’t
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: hadn’t thought about
Kevin Petit: I hadn’tthought about it. Right. I that’s that I, you know, what did identity, if they,if they set out outside in the street, they were given. Out free sandwiches toIrish Catholic guys. Right? I would, I, I would identify as that so I could geta free sandwich. So, you know, whatever it is that they, that they want, youknow, whatever you need. Right. I’ll, I’ll pull that up as my identity,
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: But most people, just call you KP.
Kevin Petit: mostpeople who have helped me be
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: So, you picked up a lot of leadership skills youdon’t, I don’t think you become a Lieutenant Colonel without knowing how tolead. other people. How would you say, I mean, I’m assuming that you use thoseskills on a daily basis in doing what you’re doing?
Kevin Petit: I thinkwithout a doubt, you know, the you know, the government requires tasks,admissions, and, and they require things and our people do that and it, and Ihave to keep the people going, you know, I So, have to keep them motivated andkeep them going to work. So Petit: I do, I do think that that’s where thatcomes. I mean,
I have a, maybe I have a character defect that I am you know,I’m, I’m so afraid of letting someone down. And so, every day, you know, Iwon’t eat again until I know that you’re happy and you have everything you needand that you’re, you know, resourced and that you’re rocking and rolling andthat you’re making the client happy and, and all that, just so that, that I thinkis probably the, you know, the home run ball for
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: I mean, that sounds like some huge accountabilitythat I’m going to make sure that I supply you with everything that you possiblyneed to be successful. And, and, I won’t allow myself to let up until I knowfor sure.
Kevin Petit: I thinkthe only drawback to the business that we do is, you know, when we started acompany, we, we, I envisioned that it would be a very close-knit family.
And, and then when you were working in classified work, youknow, you, you’re not allowed in anyone else’s office because you can’t getread in on their specific things. So close-knit that creates a little bit ofdistance. You know to protect the security of that. So, you know, we don’t getto it, you know, every day call up.
In fact, all my employees cannot bring their cell phone intheir office. Right. So, so we, you know, we have to message each other indifferent ways, in a different times and whatnot. So that creates a challenge,getting a family, you know, creating a family atmosphere.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: Is that, so is that the culture you were going for,you wanted it to be a family feel
Kevin Petit: we youknow, it is, we do want a family field because I, that’s just a great way placeto be. Right. If you’re going to spend time at work. I mean, we, you know, we,all of us spend more time doing work than we do anything else. And so, andthat’s our, usually how we identify ourselves is by our work. So, it just hasto be good.
So, you know, one of the things that I am. Supporting is, youknow, this business about, you know, everybody makes we’re all human and wemake mistakes. And so, you know, we don’t have a zero-defect culture andthat’s, you know, one of the things that we, we push hard on. So, but what Ihave to do that, you know, kind of non-standard, I have to do that duringdifferent hours of the day using different mediums and, and talking, connectingwith people in a different way.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: We don’t have a zero-defect character. Culture. Whatdoes that mean? And
Kevin Petit : Thatmeans you know, the, it would be awful to, well, you know, that there’s apopular movement now about, you know, the cancel culture and zero-defect that,you know, you might say something wrong or, or then you would get canceled andyou know, it’s social media based and it’s a phenomenon, I’m sure you’re,you’re familiar with, but you know, what w what I think is terrible about thatas you can, you know, be a, a football coach, Teacher or a Congressman or, orsomething for 25 years and then make one mistake.
And that mistake defined you. And we’re going to fire you overthat. I just think that that’s wrong. Right? People, people make mistakes. Andthen they, if they, you know, understand that they own mistakes and they try todo better and that’s just a better, a better way to go. So,
That’s that, so thecancel culture in my mind is a zero defects culture.
You know, you cannot do any do or say anything wrong or that’sit for you. It’s just a bad way to live.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: How do you promote that within, the, within theorganization then? How do you, how do you share that? Hey, we don’t have a zero-defectculture here, but also promote the accountability to own up to when you didsomething incorrect or especially with zero-defect your, the securityclearances that are required and just the stakes at which you guys areservicing the government and intelligence and things like that. But how do youeven communicate that to the team? And What do you say to them? What does thatsound like?
Kevin Petit: I thinkthe, you know, the mission is so good. Everybody’s first of all, that you know,that the mission is so important. And so clear that everybody gets alongtogether, that’s kind of the first thing, having a good mission.
If you don’t have a good mission, you know, that it’s necessaryto create one. But for us, you know, I think it’s modeling, you know, you justhave to model that. And so, I tell those guys when it’s, you know, during thepay periods or whatever the case, I’ll call them and say, you know, I am theworst, worst paid guy in the entire world.
However, I have one, I want to double-check this to get all thenumbers, right. Because you know, like we can’t mess this up. Right. This hasto get right. So, I think expressing vulnerability, you know I think wheneverme or anyone in the team makes a mistake that we’re just quick to say, hey man,we really messed that up.
We here’s what we thought. Here’s the decision we made. It wasa bad decision. And so, we’re going to reverse that, right? I think, I thinkgetting your ego out of the way, and just being able to do that as super is, isthe way to go in terms of modeling, you know, zero defect. There’s, there’s noD zero defect here.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: that, that idea that, you know, it’s okay to bevulnerable and admit that you you’ve made a mistake and to be accountable forwhat you’ve done and just kind of move forward. was that,
Kevin Petit: Oh, Ilearned that as a follower, right. Because I’ve, I’ve worked for people who didnot do that. And then, you know, that’s what you get to know if you know, iffolks are wrapped up in their ego or they, you know, they have a belief inthere and they’re pushing on that belief and, and then, you know, things aren’tbeginning to work out, but they don’t have the courage to say, you know, maybeI’m wrong on this.
Maybe I should, you know, change direction so that, you know,if you’re around that long enough, then you get to, you get to see.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: Did you, and it sounds like you made it a point thatwhen you, you know, with your people in this company, in this culture, you wantto make a difference and you want to, you want to be different from that way.
Kevin Petit: Youknow, you, I think it’s the natural way of the world. You know, you, you, whenI got out of the army, I, I worked for a company and Petit: they were a goodcompany. And so, I got good mentorship, but you know, they were brilliant on myfirst day at work in the civilian sector and the private sector that everythingthey said was brilliant because I knew nothing, you know, two or three yearslater, they’re making decisions.
I’m second guessing those decisions. Cause I have a little gamenow, you know, I got a little, little mojo about that and not in a pejorativekind of way, but you know, I’m like, hey, here’s a jump ball can go either way.This is my recommendation. And they’ll say, well, you know, we’re going to goanother way on this.
And I think, and you begin to think to yourself, well, somedaywhen I’m in charge, right, I’m going to do it my way. Right. Or, or whatever. So,hey that’s kinda, you know, the, you get an, when you stack up enough of those,then at some point you’re like, man, I got to hang my shingle one, see if I canmake a run at this.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: It sounds like you were making some mental notes. Youmentioned mentorship. What what’s So, what’s your days look like now Do youhave mentors in your life to help you get better at running the company or justpersonally get more than one for different reasons.
Kevin Petit: Youknow, the two, I do have mentors in my life and so, the, the two places to findthem one is, is kind of the big companies that we work with. You know, they’vegot kind of a large set of executives. And, and that’s so not a very, verypersonal relationship I have with those guys. It’s, it’s very business. Butit’s interesting for me to see how they make decisions, given theirinformation. Probably the, the mentor ship that I enjoy in the business worldis, is a closer, you know, there’s a couple of businesses that are medium-sizeor just about to they, you know, they broke out from being small and they’reeither medium or going to big.
And so that’s a little closer, right. I, I can think of someconsulting groups that are doing that. And, and so so that’s where I, you know,I get most of my, juice from,
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: It’s got to be a lot of pressure to run A companyand, and to be responsible for 14 other people. How do you, as an individualprepare yourself to do that? And do you have people that help you or teach youhow to do, that or,
Kevin Petit: Youknow, I think the people part is, you know, I continue to muster up the skillsthat I had that I got in the army. And you know, that was the, I guess what Icall the young man development business for, for a quarter of a century there.And then moving forward on that, I think you, you know, I, I do read a lot and Petit:I try to stay in tune. I don’t have
let me think. I’m, I’m, you know, it’s still most of my Petit:army mentors who are out in the business world, who I’m close to, who I have anaffinity for, who I have. Connections to that, you know, that probably do thatfor me.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: What are you reading these days?
Kevin Petit: I amI’ll read anything by John Mearsheimer. I think John Mearsheimer is Petit:fabulous, you know? Jonathan Haidt is a, is an author. I like, he’s a, he’s asocial psychologist and he, he does a number of things you know, about kind ofthe self-righteous mind and some of the cognitive biases that we live withevery day. And Petit: so that’s, that’s probably, that’s what I’m reading rightnow, which I’m super into.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: we should go back to this. What was your PhD? in
Kevin Petit: It’s ininternational relations which is, you know, if it’s political science,international relations, which is a field in which. Study w states how statesbehave and what, how states interact with other states. But I, I am really acomparative politics Petit: guy, which is sub state. So, you know, my, my Petit:big thing was, you know, when I was in the army in 2007 in, in Baghdad duringthe surge, you know, the, there was fighting on the street corner every day.
And, and so, I was just coming in to take over my unit wascoming in to take over at that time. And then one day peace broke out and thesun was shining and birds were chirping. And, you know, the insurgence inBaghdad had flipped from Al Qaeda. They had a law, an Alliance with Al Qaeda.They flipped from Al Qaeda to the U S and so I came into the period that theyhad just flipped.
And so, I wanted to know. W where did that decision come from?You know, I, this is my third tour here. Has, did anything before, you know,factor into this or, or is this all about your survival? Is it all rational?You know, w you know, why is it that what’s the logic of alliances and Allianceflipping for those guys?
And so that became my big question which I got to answer, youknow, and 415 pages in eight years, you know, so,
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: Does it feel good, being, like being finished with itprobably feels great, but does it feel like an accomplishment? You had yourconversation with general Petraeus back you know, 27, 28 years old. Does itfeel like an accomplishment now? Or do you have any kind of emotions at allabout like going back and doing sort of like what he recommended for you to doand feeling? good about that?
Kevin Petit: I do. Imean, I don’t, I don’t spend a lot of time celebrating these things because,you know, I don’t know, it’s not good for the humility scale. Right. But Petit:I do think, you know, for kind of a great path that I was taught and that Icontinue to teach is if you’re interested in something, then you should pursuethat and then collect it up, do it, get the qualification, whatever do it.
And then you get to decide, is this what I want to do or not?And, and in the end, you know, you, you all have a bunch of tools in your kitbag. And even if that’s not what you want to do, right. So, I, you know,project management is, you know not my favorite thing to do in the world, but Ihave. A company around it.
Right. And so, I understand those people and I have those tasksand I can, I can do those kinds of things. You know, national security. Idon’t, you know, consult on national security every day, but I, I love thetopic. I love the, the field. I loved the people. I love all that. And, and,you know, somewhere along the way I collected up these, these little, you know,pins and so, the next thing, you know, you have a collection of pins and youcan reach down to any of them. I think that’s a better, a better frame to lookat that.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: That’s awesome. So, I know that you like to sky divehow’d you first get started with skydiving.
Kevin Petit: It wasfunny that, you know, I was an army paratrooper for a long time. And Petit:from my, after I retired my wife from my birthday, bought me a tandem skydivetoo, which I thought, oh man, this is going to be nothing. I already got this,you know, it’s not that exciting to me. And bought I went on it, I had neverhad the free fall. I had never had the steerable canopy and all that. And Ifell in love with him. And so
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: Well, how did you how’d you do it in the army,
Kevin Petit: in thearmy? You know, you’re very low, you’re at a thousand or 1200 feet and you’reattached to the airplane with a static line. So, when you jump out, there’s nodecision to make you, your, your parachute is pulled for you. It’s a big roundparachute. So, it’s not steerable. I mean, think about it. If you jumped, ifyou put, you know, 64, 18-year-old kids in the air with steerable shoots, theywould steer into each other and kill each other. Right. So, you just give thema round parachute that they can’t steer and physics separates them and it worksevery time. Right. It’s So, masterful. So here I am on a support parachute. Youknow, we have a decision to make, which is to pull, you know, to, to belay thepair of shoes, an important one.
It’s the only one going on at that moment.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: the only one that focus on at that moment in time.
Kevin Petit: And so,then, you know, you, you, you do that and the free falls magic and, and youknow, I love crossing the threshold of the, of the door when you’re standing inthe airplane, looking two miles down, you know, survival kicks in your bodydoes not want to leave the safety that aircraft, but you have to make it.
I love that tension. And that that’s, it’s good electricity forme. And then the fall is great and pulling is, is a special moment. And so,canopy piloting, you know, piloting the canopy around. I just, it, it, itbecame a great vocation.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: What do you think that does for your psyche, right?That, that sort of cause there, how high are you in a, in a, in a plane when
Kevin Petit: you’re,when you’re jumping,
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: not in the army. right? Regular.
Kevin Petit: None inthe army 13, 5 14. So that’s high.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: So, you know, I’ve, I’ve been skydiving before and I,don’t think that there was ever a time ever before doing that, that I’ve beenin a plane with the door open, like that just doesn’t happen. Right. And theplace I went you know, it’s, you want to jump out of this plane, like there’sduct tape everywhere. It’s kind of, it’s weird. There are noises that shouldn’tbe there. It’s like, I’m probably better off jumping out. So, it’s kind oflike, there’s that, but then when you’re sitting there looking out, it neverfeels like this is an awesome idea. Like I’m, I’m in a moving plane that has anengine and a dude that I hope knows what he’s doing. And here I am with a pieceof cloth that I’m open is going to work out well. Right. But I did it and
I did it. I realized that on the other side of that, it wasn’tas bad as I thought it was. It wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be in my mindthat whole predicting what the future was going to feel like and what I thoughtit was going to be like it was very, very different.
In fact, I enjoyed it and it was so much more fun than I’d evergiven it credit for. And it was a freedom, right. That I had never experiencedbefore it was weightlessness. This, must be, what skinny people feel like allthe time, you know, like it just, and it wasn’t loud. It was very quiet upthere considering that you’re falling and that there’s wind blowing, but it’svery peaceful.
And at least for me, I found that to be metaphoric. Maybe Idon’t know that like things that scare me, it’s probably a good idea to do itanyway, because I may be wrong about what it’s like on the other side. Did youexperience any of that?
Kevin Petit: Ahundred percent. I mean, I, you know, skydiving and some other extreme sports,get a brat for people that are like adrenaline junkies, but I don’t thinkthat’s a good characterization, I think more so that crowd is defined by youknow mindfulness because it’s, you know, you, you do step out into nothing and Petit:there’s a weightlessness. And then when you’re in free fall, it’s almosttimeless. It’s very, very peaceful. You know, I, I think that is more of ajuice than
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: For sure. And do you think, did you, was that mirroredat all when you thought about, hey, you know, I think I want to leave thiscompany that I’m working for and try something on my own.
Kevin Petit: Youknow, you, you definitely have to have, you know, when you start a company youknow, then some of the other stuff that Hollywood would make you believe. Iguess the big move is, is leaving a company and then starting your own gig.That’s a big move, you know, stealing second, you got to be out there alone andafraid.
So, you know, you, you, you, you want enough, you, you have toknow that you’ve, if you’re going to steal second like that, you, you want toknow that you trade and you want to know that you’re fast. You don’t want toknow that you, you know how to get a good jump. You know, you want to know allthe information you want to know about the pitcher’s arm.
And you want to know that the pitchers moves and how long he isin the windup and the catcher and how good he is. And, and if you can gatherall that stuff up, right, you can reduce the risk and then boom, you’d takeyour risk. And I think, I think jumping out in a company is like that. I thinkit’s smart to get info about, just about everything.
And then you’re going to bet on yourself, right? You’re So,betting on yourself that you’re going to be able to do.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: What was the lead time in between the time you hadthe initial. I think I want to try to do this online, alone to the time thatyou actually partnered up with your, your partners and went and did it, likewhat to, get that information, the pitcher’s speed and all the things you use,the baseball analogy for. How long did that take you? And did you have a, didyou know what to do? Did you have a thought process or did you figure that outas you went?
Kevin Petit: Iactually, you know, when the company formed my business partner said, hey, comeon, are my two partners, the money guy and the, and the operating partner said,come on.
And I said, no, I, I can’t do that. I, I just got out of thearmy and I don’t even know how to do my own taxes. You know, I, I, I, I can’timmediately start working in my basement. I just, I need more, you know? And so,hey, so the company formed and I was not a part of it. And it was probablyabout 18 months in.
You know, partners started to kind of do all the housekeepingthat you need to do, you know, and, and got it stood up. And meanwhile, I wasover, you know in, I guess the corporate world figuring it out, saying, youknow, this is not that bad. I, I so, was afraid of what I couldn’t see. Ididn’t know how the game worked, but it’s not that hard.
And you know, I got the confidence finally, to, to jump backover to essentially what, something that he had set up.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: It’s kind of like riding, you know, riding in thatlittle airplane, going up to make the jump. Right. We haven’t jumped yet, butyou’re riding up in that plane and it’s terrifying because it’s the rickety isthing you could think.
It’s like, I don’t even know how I, the, the very first time Iwent, because I went twice. I was happy enough to go with you actually that,that second time, but that first. time, you know, the pilot came walking by uswith duct tape and I was just kinda like, I don’t, what is that for? Like thatjust, wasn’t what I expected to see.
I expect to see like a professional looking guy that I would,or person that I would trust that knew how to fly the plane was drinking asmoothie. Like he wasn’t like, he just didn’t seem like he was like, he just, Idon’t know. I expected him to be checking instruments or doing something likeI’ve, I’ve been on planes. Like they look like they’re, they’re cautious andthey’re touching stuff. And they’re making sure that things are working. Thisguy was just kind of hanging with us. He was a guy inside hanging with us. Ithought he was just waiting in line to jump. He wasn’t that’s the guy that’sgoing to fly the plane.
So, you know, it, a lot of, a lot of fear, but it just wasn’tas bad as I thought it was going to be. And it didn’t look anything like. Imean, it just, wasn’t one, the bat,
Kevin Petit: It’sfunny that, you know, we pick up all these signals. You want your yogainstructor to be really limber. You want your doctor to be thin and notsmoking. You know, you know, these are the things that make that we look andmake us feel good.
Well, I mean you know, w I’ll take off at those guys, thosepilots are good. I’ll take off them, but I will not land with them. Right. I’mto, I’m going to do that on my own. Right. So, I, I don’t care what they do upthere
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: right? As long as they can get it up
Kevin Petit: but thatwas a lot of fun. You know, when we went together that life’s all aboutincentives. I now take people on tandems and, and I tell them, hey, look, Ihave plans with my wife tonight. So, this is going to work out, you know, youknow, we’re going to be hooked together. And if I didn’t have plans, it couldgo either way, but I have plans tonight, so I’m going to make them, you know,
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: We’re going to be
Kevin Petit: sothat’s it, life’s about, you know, incentives.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: The guy I was going to go tandem with, he comes up tome limping, and he’s like, it’s not what you think. Like, it was, you know,this happened in the parking lot. You’re fine. But because I looked at him andI gave him an eyebrow, like how’d that happen? Like, what are you doing? Like,did you fall?
Kevin Petit: So, youknow, interestingly, I got to take two great things and put them together. Itook my vocation, you know, or my, my pleasure, which is skydiving and bring ittogether with business. I, I it was the brainchild of another guy. But I am ona board of a nonprofit called jump for valor where we, you know, we go to folksthat are getting out of the service and they had, when they were in theservice, they had small unit comradery.
They had a social group, they had, you know these things. Andthen when they get out, sometimes they suffer loss and they don’t have them.And before they turned to drinking and drugs or other nefarious social groups,we grabbed them up and we, we bring them skydiving. So, every, every year wehave a big opportunity.
You know, we a big boogie, that’s a skydiving, parties called abuggy throwback to the seventies, you know? And we had a guy who’s a you know,we sponsored him as part of the nonprofit. We got him, his skydiving license.He’s a bloke. Amputee. And parties we had an event here in Maryland two weeksago and, and, you know, one of his company mates from Baghdad who was askydiver, saw that on social media.
So came down another guy who was in the company from DC cameup. So, we had one guy in a tandem and two guys skydiving, and these guys hadnot seen each other since 2007 Baghdad, you know? So, it was fabulous. We gotthe, we got to do that. So here I, you know, took something part of my life I’mpassionate about.
And, and part of the, you know, part of essentially my, my,both my company and my free time. Right. And put them all together and, and gotto pursue these kinds of things. So that’s, that’s, you know, the, the greatestmoment.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: It sounds like you found a way to do all one thing,right. Instead of, you know, you’ve got your work life and then you’ve got yourpersonal life and then you’ve got your former military life and you’ve got yourfriend circle, and then you’ve got your, your wife. and everything. It soundslike you’ve found some consistency in your life
Kevin Petit: or yougot to put up, you know, you’ve got to put these things together in a way thatmakes you happy. Cause otherwise it’s just miserable. Right? Why w why would wewant to be miserable?
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: Right. Why would we want to do it? W What’s youreveryday look like? Do you have a morning routine?
Do you have a daily routine? Like how do you keep yourself inshape or keep your mind sharp or, you know, as a leader, I ask everyone this,right? I mean, some people prayer and meditation, one, guy was a triathlon guy,one woman, you know, she’s got a morning routine of like, she sits in silence.She does a reading? That’s her time. Right. Or kid before kids get up and likewhat am I
Kevin Petit: I wouldlove to tell you I get up and go to the gym, but I just don’t do that anymore.You
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: No, you don’t do a PT regimen.
Kevin Petit: don’t doit anymore. And so, my, but the morning times. Cognitively when I’m so, mostswitched on. So, I usually get up in the 4 35 30 range, and then I am downsitting at my desk at, you know, at about zero six, kind of doing the homeworkthat I need to do, and the prep work that I need to do to be ready for the day.Our duty day starts at eight. And so, I have a good, you know, I have thoughtabout all the ideas and made the tradeoffs and thought about decisions andthings and, and whatnot. So, you know, if you’re in our, if you’re in thecompany and you show up at eight flat-footed, you’re going to get smacked byKP.
Who’s got a ton of energy and has been thinking about thisstuff for like three hours, you know? And so that’s probably the, the bigregime for me. And then somewhere in the afternoon, I’ll, I’ll gear it down alittle bit.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: You know, that’s, there’s some people that are nightowls and some people that are, you know, first thing in the morning and it’s, Ithink some of the challenge for a lot of us is figuring out which one we areand not shaming ourselves for being that one versus the other one, because weread something or someone else tells us we should be this. Right. Some peoplecan say, oh, you have to work out in the morning. Cause that’s when you get themost benefit. Or some people say no in the afternoon after the, you know, thebrain has done whatever it’s done, but you figured out that you you’re at yoursharpest in the morning, so you get up early and then you do some work, right?
Kevin Petit: I alsohad to figure out that I was amenable from working from home. Right. Noteverybody is. So, I guess more people that are now in the pandemic, but Petit:you have to, you know, you have to be that guy, maybe you have to put on, youknow, slacks and a jacket and shave and so that you sit down and you’re readyto go. If you sit their and. PJ’s unshaven, maybe you’ll never get started.Right. So, I had to go through all that stuff.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: What was that like? Did you, obviously you made somemistakes? I’m assuming
Kevin Petit: I madesome mistakes and you know, I had to, I just had to be honest with myself aboutwhen I was on it and when I was not, when I was, you know cooking with fireand, and so, when I was, it was a slow burn. So, you know, it’s interesting. I,I originally thought when my wife began to work also inside the home, you know,telework from inside the home, I, I said to her, you know, I promise to lovehonor and cherish you, but we were not meant to be coworkers in the same space.
Right. So, we, so we had, we invented a third person to blame,you know, so she’ll come down and say, hey, did, did Margaret leave dirtydishes in the common area because that’s really inconsiderate, you know? And sothat’s how we communicate, you know, through this she’ll come down there andsay, you know, boy, it doesn’t smell that good down here in your office wasMargaret just here. Maybe we should talk to HR about her, about her hygiene,you know, and I’ll say, you know, you know, is Margaret around. I heard her onthe phone and when she’s on the phone, she speaks very loudly. And other peoplewho are trying to have conversations, can’t have this, you know, so that’s our,
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: that’s your
Kevin Petit: that’sour thing to send it back and forth in a nice
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: That is Awesome. You third-party and onto person.that doesn’t exist. I love it. I love it. So, you guys have been married what?10 years.
Kevin Petit: Yep. We Petit:just hit 11 years. So, it’s Petit: a good, it’s a good partnership. Good union.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: I hear a lot of, I hear a lot of accountabilitiesfrom your personal accountability, and I think it’s a, it’s an incrediblemessage for anyone who’s listening, especially other leaders, but also, youknow, people that are hoping to one day be in the leadership a leadership.role. what does that actually look like for you though? Like, do you journalthings out? Like when you’re going through your process, of trying to figureout, am I a morning person? Am I not? Or because we were just talking aboutthat and how do you do that? Do you just, I mean, do you sit and think aboutit? Like, are you visual?
Like how do you know how do you write down the mistakes you’vemade and try to figure out all right, what, was I doing that may mean what’sthe common denominator? Like, what do you, what’s your process?
Kevin Petit: Youknow? I, my process evolves because the environment continues to evolve and youhave to stay with it right now. I’d say that I am writing almost everythingdown. I write down all my tasks and Petit: sometimes I sequence them in the waythat they need to be done. And then I, if I, you know, when I complete them, Icheck them off. And if I’m happy with the way they’re completed, I’ll, I’llcheck them off and make a note.
And if I’m unhappy, right, I will also make a note. So that’smy way to, to think that. Things on this I’m in, I’m in a very people business.So, you know, a lot of it is, is communicating with people and that is always,you know, a super learning event. And you just have to, you know, you, you notbe satisfied with where you are and not be unhappy with where you are, but, youknow, there’s always places to grow and, and, and so, room to go.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: What would you say would so be a successful year asan individual, but then also from your business, how do you guys’ measuresuccess? And what are you doing about
Kevin Petit: Were,you know, when I left the army, I got, I got the awakening, you know in thearmy, we were, we were paid for a number of things. We were compensated forbuilding teams and developing leaders and, you know, teaching ethics and, andtraining and failing and, and getting better. And, and, you know, there was anumber of things we were compensated for when I got on the outside.
I was kinda sad to, to discover that there’s one metric ofsuccess, you know, the almighty dollar. And if you’re making it, no one careswhat you’re doing. Cause you’re, you’re making it. And if you’re not making it,no one cares what you’re doing. You’re not making it. Right. So that was a bad.Actually, for me, but so we measure success by really contracts and acquisitionwith the government, because we have found that there’s a correlation betweenhaving contracts and capital flowing through the company at, you know, we getmore employees and the employees are happier.
We can compensate them better. And, you know so thatcorrelation is, is definitely strong. So actually, that’s it. So it would be,you know, two major contracts. Now the acquisition process is very, very slow.It’s also slowed down on the pandemic. So, so that’s not easy. So, we have to,you know, get in there and figure out what we’re going to do and who the rightpartners are and team with them and come up with a strategy to convince thegovernment, essentially make an argument to the government that we can do itbetter, faster, cheaper, somehow.
And so, so that’s all-good stuff. So, we think, you know, twobig wins or in three or, and, or, you know, three small wins this year is wouldmake it a great year.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: And do you, do, are you trying to Grow the company.Do you want more employees? Is there a number of employees that you think wouldbe, well, I guess that’s a weird cause your employee number is, is relevant tothe contract and what it takes to service? the contract.
Kevin Petit: Youknow, it’s a good question. You have to ask yourself when you start a company,which we didn’t, we didn’t ask ourselves this question, but you know, you haveto ask yourself, you know, is it a do you have a lifestyle company?
You know, do you want to show up and not work too hard, butwork hard enough and make a good living and kind of keep the machine going, youknow, or do you want to kill it? Do you want to, you know, smoke it and, and,and be, you know, Virginia or Washington DC, small business of the year andbust the small business window cap and flip the company, you know, to some bigand, and then start again, you know, are you on that path?
You have to decide what path. And Petit: and, and the bottomline is we flip, you know, all the time on this, you know, we just, and it’s Petit:great to have a partner, you know, who mirrors you on this, but when I’m like,man, I’m just tired, you know? But you know, that’s it for me that let’s, youknow, let’s ease into the winter and then we’ll pick it back up in January.
And my partner will be like, no, no, this is the time. This isa time hustle Petit: you know? And so, we, we keep each other on even keelabout that. That’s good
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: Would you say that you were ever at a jumping offpoint? I ask all of our leaders this, right. and what I mean by jumping offpoint and it could be professionally or personally is a moment in time wheresomething’s going on. Right. And you’re not sure what to do. You just know thatyou can’t keep on going doing the thing that you’re doing, right.
You can’t keep living the way you’re living, but you’re notsure what to do to do, to be different. So, you’ve got this jumping off point
Kevin Petit: I canremember, you know, the jumping off point, I think to me I don’t have enoughself-confidence I think, to, to do that on my own. I mean, the, the, the markand spark of, of successful leaders is, is generally not conferred from withinthem, it is conferred from outside of them. Somebody puts their hand on yourshoulder and says, man, you got what it takes, keep hustling, keep doing it.You know, you, I believe in you. And if you get that, if I get that, if I getthat external validation, man you know, I’ll take over the world on that juice,right?
I’ll, that’s, that’s enough energy. I’ll put that in my tankand burn it, you know all month long. And so that was about the point that Iwas doing business and I was not quite happy in, you know, working. I was in agreat company and I had good leadership, but I just, I felt like I had more togive and you know, what do you do with that spare capacity?
And, and Petit: and you’re questioning decisions. And, andthen, you know, I got, I got a nice chat with somebody who said, look, man,you, you can do this. Why don’t you do this? You know? And so, I, I got theangst to take a risk. That was my jumping off point.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: So, and then, you know, with that, I, always askeveryone about fixed mindset and growth mindset, we may not be Michael Jordan,but you can get much better at basketball than you are same thing with, withanything else that we do, right. I mean, there’s
I always struggled with this up until you know, a few yearsago. And a lot of people have said that they have also is that it’s very easyto look at other people that are doing something that we want to be doing andfigure they’ve always been doing that right.
Or that they’ve always been good at it. He’s doing that becausehe’s good at it. And that’s why he gets to do it when it’s usually theopposite. He’s good at it because he’s doing it Right. Or he just simplystarted doing or she or whoever. And so that would be an example of me practicinga fixed mindset methodology, right.
That like you either good at it, or you’re not you either meantto be, you know, a business leader or you’re not you’re, and that’s a fixedmindset. I’ve learned that the growth mindset is way healthier and, andsomething that I practice in my in my daily life I mean what about you?
Kevin Petit: Youknow, that’s an interesting frame. You know, the one that I fall back on is Iwould, for me I would like to consider myself a Fox, you know, I’m clever, Iknow a lot of things. And so, I’m a Fox. But most of the business that I dodoes not require a Fox. It requires a hedgehog, you know, the hedgehog knowsone great thing.
The hedgehog, you know, latches on. And bowls through. And so,I think the greatest formula for this, for me, I, my life has to be two parts,hedgehog, one part Fox. That’s the mixture. You know, if I’m a bulldog, if I’mmaking calls and if I’m, you know, hustle and hustle and hustle on, and then Iget to finesse around the edges, that’s a nice chemistry for me to do that.
And that has seemed to work well, but you know, other peoplethat might be a different, a different mix, but you know, when you, when youtalked about your mindsets, that’s, that’s what popped out for me.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: Well, so, and you mentioned what’s the name of thisnonprofit again, I want to make sure that that folk can, can find that and readabout that and get to know, that,
Kevin Petit: thanks.That’s a jump for valor.org, jump for valor. And so, we you know, we go toserve veterans and transitioning service men and veterans, and we give them askydive community and we give them an option, you know, air therapy, we call ita little air therapy, our signature moves.
We’ll bring you on a tandem if moves you want, but oursignature move is to bring you through an advanced free fall to, to give you acommunity, to give you, you know, a social group and to give you an activity,if you suddenly lost it after leaving the service,
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: is there a website or, or Instagram page or LinkedIn
Kevin Petit: we’re atall that right.
We’re big Facebook presence. You can go see all the coolest guyto have in videos and whatnot. Instead, we’re on Insta and we’re on Facebookbut, and the website is www.jumpforvalor.org. Okay. And
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: what about what about your group? Is there a way thatfolks that may want to do business with you are there, if they’re listening andthey’re getting out of the service, trying to get in touch with you, how wouldthey reach you?
Kevin Petit: We are,you know, it’s interesting when you’re in the classified business, you know, wedon’t have a website that’s impressive, and we don’t have, you can’t go applyfor a job on our site because nobody wants to says, hey, I need a servicedisabled, small. Let me Google that. Right. You know, nobody does that.
So, we have a website so that when the government looks up, itlooks like we’re legit. Right. But we’re definitely a word-of-mouth thing. But word-of-mouthyou know, we can always, you can catch me to the you, you can catch me throughthe LinkedIn, you know, I’m a big LinkedIn guy, a small Facebook guy, big linkto guy. But I’ll always, always take that. And we’re always looking for people,you know.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: If you had to write a book about your life, whatwould you, what would, what would the title.
Kevin Petit: Man. IfI had to write a book about, well, here’s what I know about that book. Youknow, we’re in, we’re like in the second chapter, it’s a 13-chapter book, man,but we’re like in the second chapter, right? There’s a whole bunch of it. Maybeit’s the unfinished work. That’s what we should call it is the unfinished work.Cause we got, I got so many grass fires going on. You know, we don’t know whatthis thing is going to look like when it’s.
Phillip K. Naithram, Host DCLocal Leaders: That’s great. That’s awesome. Thank you so much forbeing here and thanks for agreeing to do this. I mean, it’s been, it’s beengreat chatting. with you.
Kevin Petit:Absolutely. My pleasure, man. It’s good to see a Phillip